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Hydrogen-Powered Hummer May Be Glimpse Into Automotives' Future

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The majority of cars on Triangle roadways are powered by gas. However, the rising price at the pump is driving the major automakers and more people to look into alternative fuels.

"I drive 30 miles to work each day," said SUV owner Steven Olejar. "When you're talking about the difference between 14 and 25 miles, that would be important to me."

Ethanol is one alternative fuel already available in North Carolina. Another alternative is the hydrogen fuel that powers a Hummer concept vehicle that cost more than $1 million to produce. The cost, however, isn't the only roadblock to owning a hydrogen-powered car.

"Right now, you have hardly any hydrogen stations around," said Hummer regional manager John Orth. "There are ethanol stations, mostly in the Midwest, but hardly any hydrogen."

That's one reason drivers can't go down to a dealership and purchase a hydrogen-powered car. Another reason is that hydrogen fuel is still being tested to determine if it is a consumer-friendly product.

Anne Tazewell is the Alternative Fuel Manager for North Carolina State's Solar Center. She said that while hydrogen fuel is a clean-burning source of energy, automakers couldn't afford to mass-produce them.

"The vehicles that are (hydrogen) are very expensive," said Tazewell. "I see it as a long-term project before these cars are available."

Manufacturers recognize they must make hydrogen-powered vehicles more cost-effective before the test Hummer's concept will catch on with consumers.

N.C. State's Solar Center is working with the Advance Vehicle Research Center to develop a piece of land in Northampton County as the site of the first portable hydrogen fuel station in the state. There is no word yet on a completion date.


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